How useful are calorie counts?

Bazille is one of the restaurants in Calgary which currently displays a calorie count.

Ontario chain restaurants will soon have to post calorie counts for all the items that they serve.The move has many health advocates pushing for similar and more stringent requirements across the country. It also has opposition though as many people have no interest in how many calories their food is and feel that it will negatively impact their dining experience when they just want to enjoy their food.

Many states in the U.S. have already had similar requirements in place for several years and legislation has been in the works to make it a nationwide requirement. While studies have been conducted on the states which have mandated calorie counts, they have had differing results. Some found no effect while others found a small decrease in the number of calories people ordered. The largest positive was that some restaurants lowered the calories of some menu items after being forced to post caloric information. Another positive is that it makes it a bit easier to see that some foods like salads and juices or smoothies aren’t necessarily the healthiest option.

The biggest downside of mandating calorie information is that it can cause people to focus too much on counting calories when food decisions should be based on so much more than that. Seattle now requires restaurants to display calorie, saturated fat, carbohydrate and sodium information, giving people a clearer picture of how healthy what they are ordering is.

Overall while posting calorie counts may not be the most effective, it’s never a bad thing to know more about what you’re eating. People still manage to eat chips in bliss while having the nutritional info in their hands so having calorie counts posted in restaurants shouldn’t negatively impact their dining experience much either.


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